Raise your voice! Stop the Kroger-Albertsons cash grab!

by President Mark Ramos

If you’re wondering why the people who run Kroger and Albertsons are so hell-bent on merging their companies, consider this:

Albertsons’ top 10 executives could receive a total of $146 million if they quit or resign following the deal, according to corporate filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Albertsons CEO Vivek Sankaran could get $43 million, just by quitting his job. If Albertsons’ corporate executives deserve a severance package we think you deserve it also.

Albertsons’ shareholders have already received $4 billion in dividend payouts as a reward for signing off on the deal.

What does Kroger get out of it? Even greater market dominance for a company that is already North America’s largest supermarket retailer.

Kroger and Albertsons are certainly not doing this to help their customers. One doesn’t require an MBA from Harvard to understand that prices almost always go up when markets are controlled by a small number of huge corporations.

And they’re certainly not doing it to help their employees, either. The Economic Policy Institute projects the merger would lower wages for 746,000 grocery store workers in more than 50 metropolitan areas across the U.S. That’s 25% of all grocery workers in the country, which reduces union market share.

Let’s recognize this deal for what it is: A massive cash grab for the top executives of two huge corporations, all at the expense of essential workers and the public.

The people who are proposing the merger are rich and powerful, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll get away with it. We still live in a democracy where people like us have a voice in the matter. When we speak loudly enough, the people who represent us in government will listen.

California State Sen. Lola SmallwoodCuevas is one example of a politician with a good set of ears. The first-term legislator from Los Angeles is the sponsor of Senate Bill 725, the Grocery Worker Safety Net, which would require a grocery company that conducts layoffs as a result of a merger or acquisition to provide its workers with one-week severance pay for every year of service. This bill has already been approved by the California Assembly’s Labor and Employment Committee.

If it becomes law, SB 725 would benefit workers greatly should the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) let the merger go through. But there’s more that our state can do to help our members, which is why two other important bills supported by the UFCW are under consideration. They include:

  • Assembly Bill 647, the Protect Grocery Workers’ Jobs Act, sponsored by California Assemblymember Chris Holden. This bill would protect grocery and pharmacy workers’ jobs by strengthening California’s existing Statewide Grocery Worker Retention Law and requiring recall and rehiring rights. It would ensure that skilled and trained workers can continue to provide our communities with access to safe food and lessen the economic impact to our social safety net.
  • Assembly Bill 853, the Californians’ Right to Know on Essential Goods and Services Act, sponsored by San Diego legislator Brian Maienschein, would require retail grocery and drug companies to notify California’s attorney general six months in advance of finalizing a proposed merger or acquisition and submit an analysis on the deal’s potential impacts on communities. Such impacts could worsen food deserts, raise food prices, reduce the supply of experienced grocery workers, increase unemployment, and depress wages and benefits.

Ultimately, the Federal Trade Commission will decide whether the Albertsons-Kroger deal will go through, but laws enacted in California, America’s biggest and most economically powerful state, would have a significant effect on how workers would be affected by the merger.

California has more stores operated by the two grocery chains than any other state in the country, with Kroger operating approximately 233 stores under the Ralphs, Food 4 Less and Foods Co banners and Albertsons operating approximately 579 grocery stores under the Albertsons, Safeway, Vons and Pavilions banners.

In Los Angeles and Orange Counties, 115 of 159 Albertsons stores are within two miles of a Kroger store and are potential targets of closures by the FTC. This could result in an estimated 5,750 jobs being lost in the Los Angeles region alone.

It’s clear that a merger between these two companies would result in large-scale layoffs for workers, and without strong severance pay protections, the loss of so many jobs in one region will have ripple effects through the local economy and further burden an already tattered social safety net.

Let’s not be silent as the story unfolds. Don’t let the corporate executives get rich on the backs of workers and the public.

Please let your representatives in the California Senate and Assembly know how you feel about SB 725 at https://bit.ly/SupportSB725. Also, please sign the petition urging the Federal Trade Commission to stop the Albertsons-Kroger merger altogether. You can do this online by visiting https://p2a.co/Fv5cGKR.

If we speak loudly enough, they will listen.



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